Monday, June 8, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Christian Picciolini "Romantic Violence - Memoirs of an American Skinhead"

BOOK REVIEW
Romantic Violence:
Memoirs of an
American Skinhead
Christian Picciolini -
(Goldmill Group Publishing)
_________________________

I kicked the season off
submerged in a sizzling
summer read  one I
recommend highly  that
is, as long as you've got
the nards to handle a ride
so riveting that it literally
will shake your soul.
__________________________

Okay, full disclosure time. Although I'm an avid reader, I'm a slow reader. And I do mean, a VERY  slow reader. I always have been. Not even high school speed reading classes during the late '70s had an affect on my remedial ability. Hence, if a 300-page, 100,000-word memoir is dropped in my lap, it's gonna take a (long) while before I can burn from cover to cover — an often embarrassing little factoid, especially when I'm under the gun, facing a time sensitive review commitment. To make matters more challenging, I can also deal with a bit of an ADHD issue from time to time. As a result, if I'm gonna invest a couple of weeks of my life into pouring over said memoir, the author has got to make a "connection." Furthermore, he / she must administer such rapid-fire, non-stop jabs to the sack that my attention is held fully throughout the experience — and there darn well better be a "payoff" at the conclusion.

I remember an oft-aired TV commercial from many years ago in which two attractive, seemingly conservative women sporting business suits and bad '80s hair discuss the importance of making a strong first impression. I've hung on to that tidbit, as it's proven to be wise and applicable in many scenarios throughout my adult life — even beyond the realms of making smart shampoo choices. Author Christian Picciolini (Peach-O-Lee-Nee) must have also seen that ad and grasped its message, as his debut memoir, Romantic Violence gripped me immediately. And from the heartfelt foreword penned by rock and roll icon, Joan Jett, to the incredible, emotion-filled final page, Picciolini never loosened that grip.

The bullet points alone create compelling "curb appeal" and make this story an easy sell. Born to Italian immigrant parents in the early '70s, Picciolini is an adorable little boy. Growing up in a small town outside of Chicago, he comes of age during the mid '80s. Seeking his "place in the world," he's driven to achieve greatness  to become a champion athlete or a life-saving hero. However, Picciolini's all-American ambition soon turns to a misguided, out of control hunger for power and glory. And by age 15, he's on the fast track to building one of America's most violent homegrown terror organizations. Fortunately, by his mid 20s, came repentance.

Christian Picciolini - circa 1992
But Romantic Violence is more than a riveting, good boy-turned-monster-finds redemption saga. And the true payoff is the story behind the bullet points. From family members and friends to a menagerie of "white trash thugs," Picciolini paints compelling portraits of the people who played key roles in his disturbing life story. His attention to details is superb — from pointing out his father's pinkie ring to his mother's hair-dyed fingertips. Piccionli uses a fine-tipped brush to make his story zing — recalling with vivid clarity, early memories of his parents who were too consumed with running their salon to offer him what he yearned for most — their time and attention. Typically the last kid to be picked up from school by his parents each afternoon, then rushed immediately and dropped off at his grandparents', Picciolini writes that he often felt like "a burden unloaded." Hmm, and so it begins.

His narrative is brutally honest. His language — unfiltered, crude and often offensive. And the transparent accounts of his actions during his rebellious, hate-filled youth are beyond despicable. However, Picciolini assumes complete responsibility for the choices he made — choices that left him ultimately filled with "dread and regret" — a period in his life that he now looks back on as being "pathetic" and a "miserable existence."

"I had to fully expose myself
to the light so that the evil I'd
once paid tribute to could be
washed away once and for all."
-Christian Picciolini

Christian Picciolini during a 2015
appearance on The Glenn Beck Program.
"By exposing racism, hate will
have fewer places to hide."
-Christian Picciolini

Picciolini's heartfelt accounts — the connection to his younger brother, "Buddy," discovering teenage love, and his passion for the punk scene's glory days of Social Distortion, mix tapes and "zines," often help to humanize the seemingly heartless beast. As a result, I kinda understood him. Not that I could ever condone his past acts of violence and racism in any way, I just felt like, "Hey, I know this guy." In fact, if the reader can remove their own emotions regarding the story's glaring hate factor and look closely, Picciolini will likely seem familiar, and I dare say, endearing to many. 

Romantic Violence presents a host of villains — those who are responsible for helping to transform an innocent boy into a destructive monster. But if forced into playing the "blame game," I'd point to the emotional damage caused by denominational religion as the primary "person of interest." As an author of a couple of pretty snappy Christian Living books, I'll confess openly that religion scares the crap out of me sometimes. Heck, not even Jesus was down with religion. It's a cruel mind trip that can crush souls with guilt and condemnation. Furthermore, I believe that it pushes people away from Jesus. And at the risk of denting his armor, I contend that Picciolini is NOT, in fact, an Agnostic as he now maintains. Truth be told, every word he currently speaks — love, kindness, compassion and forgiveness, all beam the light and truth of Jesus Christ into everyone with ears to hear. Religion judges and condemns. Relationship loves and forgives. Jesus is "relationship." If any denomination preaches anything else, it ain't preaching Jesus. I would also suggest that "Pastor" Picciolini is destined to accomplish things even greater than sharing the powerful message of Romantic Violence and promoting his wonderful Life After Hate outreach.

I recommend it highly!
Despite possessing an arguably overall "fabulous" fashion sensibility, I'm actually a real "tough guy" inside. From my days procuring groupies and meds for platinum-selling rock stars to watching a close family member die of AIDS to surviving a painful divorce — losing everything in the process, to raising my (now) adult son and my current international missionary experiences, I've pretty much seen it all in my 52 years. But as I finally finished reading Romantic Violence one morning last week, I found myself so moved, that my trembling hands could literally no longer hold the (now) coffee-stained print copy — prompting me to leave it sitting atop the bar at my local Starbucks wiping away the tears streaming down my scruffy, middle-aged face as I stepped outside to collect my composure. 

Bravo, Mr. Picciolini  "payoff," indeed.

-Christopher Long
(June 2015)

__________________________

Visit Christian Picciolini Online

Official Site
Amazon
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram

LifeAfterHate.org
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